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Will Honda Center, Angel Stadium developments be winners for Anaheim?

The owners of Orange County’s two professional sports teams have announced projects that would surround their home turf with shopping and dining, hotels, offices and parks, and it seems nearly everyone can find something to like in the plans.

But that doesn’t mean no one is wary of what’s expected around Angel Stadium and the Honda Center in the next few years, and ultimately decades: Will traffic and parking be bad? Is there demand for all that office and retail space? When will people feel comfortable at – or even be allowed to attend – concerts and other big events?



While the coronavirus pandemic isn’t mentioned in plans from Angels owner Arte Moreno’s partnership, SRB Management, for the ballpark property, or from Anaheim Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli for OC Vibe, it’s a source of potential misgivings about those ambitious projects – but it’s also got some people welcoming the Anaheim developments as a much needed shot in the arm.

“It’s great to get some good news, something to look forward to, because we’re going to come out of this together,” Orange County Business Council CEO Lucy Dunn said.

The 115-acre OC Vibe project on property surrounding the Honda Center, which is expected to open a first phase by 2024, would add a 6,000-seat concert hall, more than 30 dining options including a food hall, and apartments, offices and stores.

The 153-acre Angel Stadium project, more conceptual at this stage, would create a “fan experience” area with dining and entertainment, as well as adding stores, offices and apartments to be built out over 30 years.

Both projects would include hotels and public open space, and would use parking garages to replace the surface parking they would build on.

For Anaheim officials, they’re the fruition of plans for the Platinum Triangle and will help complete the neighborhood ‘s transition from an industrial area with a 1960s ballpark to a vibrant, walkable place where people want to live, work and visit.

The Great Recession slowed development in the Platinum Triangle, but it’s picked up in the last five to seven years, Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said.

“We look to these two plans to really put that into overdrive,” he said. “These two plans really represent what that vision is, which is entertainment, sports and neighborhoods built around them that people want to live in because of all that.”

Both projects are still subject to review by the city and approval from the City Council, a process expected to play out over the next year and a half. The city and the Angels also need to close on the agreement to sell the stadium and surrounding acreage to SRB Management.

Demand for more

Angels and Ducks fans are likely to be excited – a word that comes up often in talking about the new projects – by the prospect of more places to grab a bite or a drink near the game and things to do afterward.

Orange resident Rob Rohm among them. A Ducks season ticket holder who usually attends 30 to 40 Angels games a year, Rohm said he also likes seeing live music, so the concert venue in the Honda Center plans appeals to him as well.

“We definitely can use more venues in Orange County, because I definitely prefer to see shows here as opposed to traveling to L.A.,” he said.

And additional restaurants and bars will add variety, and hopefully happy hour prices, to game days, Rohm said.

“It enhances the experience that much more,” he said. “I think it’ll drive (Anaheim) more to be a destination that people want to come to – it won’t be just Disneyland.”

Dave Brooks, Billboard’s senior director of live music and touring, said the ballpark and arena development plans are “definitely in line with what we’re seeing around the country,” with entertainment companies that have the capital investing in real estate and development.

“They’re realizing that people when they go to concerts, they want more food and beverage opportunities, they want more things to do before and after the show.”

Brooks cautioned that Honda Center officials’ venue plans could lead to a talent crunch, since the new Anaheim concert hall would be similar in size to the Greek Theatre and Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and they might compete for the same acts.

But Brooks said the Anaheim projects could allow their backers to diversify their revenue streams and potentially take advantage of lower financing costs.

Hotel market analyst Alan Reay also noted the potential for a better deal on hotel construction, as many projects that hadn’t started building before the coronavirus shutdowns have been postponed.

“Assuming that we get past the COVID situation and we get back to a normal market, there will be a good market for those hotels, especially with all the commercial development” around them, Reay said.

Dan Young, a lead on the Honda Center project, said OC Vibe’s planners aren’t worried about competing with new development around Angel Stadium – in fact, officials for the Ducks and Angels have shared their plans with each other and expect traffic and transportation changes to be well coordinated.

“We believe that if they choose to build out their property, their parking lot, it just adds to the overall feasibility” of both developments, Young said. “We’re excited for them to get going.”

Cautious optimism

While some forecasters predict up to three years before the real estate market stabilizes, longtime Anaheim Realtor Paul Kott said, “the good news for these developments is by the time they really come online as viable, occupiable spaces, then hopefully COVID will be behind us.”

The residential parts of the project are promising some key amenities, such as parks, shopping and walkability, that make for desirable urban living, he said.

“I’m excited for Anaheim’s future and I think there’s a reason that we can all be cautiously optimistic that this’ll be a couple of really great projects for the city.”

Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno, who has been a critic of the city’s deal to sell the Angel Stadium property but looks forward to hearing more, said he welcomes the OC Vibe’s proposal to make 15% of its housing affordable, particularly because it’s being done without any city subsidies.

“We’d love, of course, for the percent to be higher because we have such a need in Anaheim, but I’m thrilled that they’re doing it,” Moreno said.

Moreno and Dunn both pointed out the projects could provide a huge boost to the ARTIC transit station – it’s across Katella Avenue from the Honda Center and would be connected by a new pedestrian bridge. It has operated in the red and seen far fewer passengers than projected since opening in late 2014.

Dunn also said the potential for more transit riders could help revive interest in an Anaheim streetcar, which Mayor Harry Sidhu has said he wants to explore.

“We’re already building a streetcar in Santa Ana, let’s now connect the dots in Anaheim as well,” she said.

While some of the details of the projects have yet to be finalized, Anaheim Councilman Stephen Faessel, whose district includes the Platinum Triangle, sees them as a great opportunity.

“I think it’s going to bring a lot of new life and energy to the area,” he said.

With the projects, the owners of the Angels and the Ducks have committed to keep the teams in Anaheim for decades to come and to make big investments in the city’s future, which will ultimately produce revenue the city can use to fill potholes, pay for parks and police, and do other things residents want, Faessel said.

Constituents continually tell him, “how the city can best serve them,” he said, “is the 75 feet in front of their house.”

Source: Orange County Register

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